In Fall 2008, a nascent classroom community emerged among my Civil Procedure students, teaching assistants and I. That term’s adventure eventually became the vital “past” for the fully formed community that would knit students of future classes together as one.
The genesis of this early classroom community was my ideal of “the good lawyer” as the small-firm or small-jurisdiction practitioner I had known as a seven-year solo practitioner in a town of 50,000 people. That ideal was a combination of “the rhythms of the law” that run throughout the specialties; a more respectful and less stratified model of professionalism, and the romance of representing real people in a community that remembers its past and bravely commits to a future together.
Enter my teaching assistants. They created course materials rooted in their relationships with their friends that were some of our most productive community building tools. Others of my former students acted as role models and morphed into legends. I kept my office door open and my classroom culture casual.
The enrolled students, former students, teaching assistants and I tentatively formed intergenerational and multiplex relationships that are so characteristic of neighborhood and small jurisdiction practice. “Rob’s” and “Kim’s” ubiquitous car wrecks and the students’ weekly admit slip assignments captured imaginations and became practices of commitment of the type that define Habits of the Heart’s “communities of memory.”
This is the first of several articles I hope to write about techniques for fostering community in law school classrooms that include original student perspectives. Many of the ideas are repeatable; a “community in a classroom” is one. This particular story, however, is not. It is a first-hand account of a magical group of students made so because lived, interacted, and insisted on the idea that it’s all about the people.
- Legal Education,
- Civil Procedure,
- Legal Profession,
- Community of Memory,
- Learning Communities